Athletes, celebrities, divorcees, widows and heirs who come into wealth through their jobs, settlements or bequests often face a similar challenge. Sudden wealth without financial literacy can lead to disastrous outcomes.
Many parents and schools fail to educate students on checking and savings accounts, credit and debit cards as well as the importance of avoiding overdrafts and nurturing their credit scores.
How will they learn, especially if their parents lack financial acuity? Do we think it will happen through divine intervention, an insatiable curiosity, Google or TikTok?
Now, imagine these students as adults, they could be a college athlete who came from nothing or an emerging actor who’s been on their own. What if they sign their first hefty contract and now have a six- or seven-figure payout, thinking it will match their young, free-spending lifestyles. Or it could be an heir, whose parents left them a fortune or stake in a business, without a clue how to manage it.
How about the divorcee or widow who had relied on their spouse for their entire married life to handle the family finances, only to receive a lump-sum alimony settlement or insurance payout? To be fair, this could be a woman or man, rich or poor; financial illiteracy knows no gender, ethnicity or class.
All the while, bills continue to roll in month after month and must be paid by money already dwindled by agent commissions, attorney or accountant fees, or taxes. In the case of athletes, with the average sports career lasting less than five years, what will athletes do when the paychecks end? Will they have been able to save?
What’s more, the sudden infusion of wealth can create a cascading effect that puts the recipient at further risk. In many cases, family and friends show up with hat in hand. The sense of obligation or guilt can be strong. For athletes and celebrities, the end of the career and limelight adds the additional concerns of loneliness, depression, even substance abuse.
Managers and other fiduciaries may not necessarily have the best interests of athletes, celebrities, divorcees, widows or heirs in mind. Whether due to fraud, mismanagement borne of ignorance, misplaced trust or lack of self-control, their vulnerability is frightening.
Below are four tips to start protecting your financial security now…
Build your credit profile. Married and single people alike should begin building their own credit profile. Apply for a credit card and open a bank account, not cosigned by your spouse or your parents, especially if you’re a young adult who’s new to the workforce.
Learn to bank. Regardless of whether the account is personal or joint, learn how to manage it. If you’re married with a joint account, ensure you have access and check the accounts regularly. Have your own online banking profile with your own log-in. Download the app to your smartphone and learn how to do online BillPay. It’s not only efficient, it’s smart!
Rediscover Home Economics. If you didn’t take “Home Ec” back in grade school, now’s the time. Learn the basics of checking, savings and brokerage accounts, including balancing your checkbook. Habitually review your account and credit card statements to ensure charges are legitimate. Know the signs of bank and internet fraud.
Don’t wing it. Call your trusted financial advisor. This may not be your banker. Your independent financial advisor can be your sounding board who helps you oversee your finances, practice intelligent cash management, and provide a deeper dive into financial literacy beyond the Home Ec basics.
This is important to do at any time. But if you’re anticipating a large salary payout, death benefit, alimony or insurance settlement, act now. Financial literacy can help create a strategy to protect and grow your money, instead of depleting it.